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Any member of a class that tills the soil as small landowners or agricultural labourers. The peasant economy generally has a simple technology and a division of labour by age and sex. The basic unit of production is the family or household. Peasant families traditionally consume what they produce, though a portion of their output may be sold in the market or paid to a landlord. Productivity per worker and yields per unit of land are usually low. Peasants as a class tend to disappear as a society industrializes, though peasantlike social structures may persist under new economic regimens. See alsoejido; feudalism; hacienda; serfdom.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on peasant, visit Britannica.com.